TWENTY years after being thrown out of the Football League, Southport have something to celebrate. For the first time in their 117-year history, the seaside club are on their way to Wembley, where they will meet Cheltenham in the FA Umbro Trophy final.
A courageous and committed second-half performance saw off the challenge of Slough Town at a packed Haig Avenue yesterday, after Southport had gained a 1-0 advantage in the first leg the previous weekend.
Slough, who were fortunate not to have Matthew Stowell sent off for a dreadful head-high tackle on Andy Farley, took the lead on the half hour when the home defence failed to clear a corner. Danny Bailey, having collected the ball 25 yards from goal, took a couple of paces forward and dispatched a firm low drive into the net.
After the interval, Brian Butler and his colleagues took a grip in midfield and pressed forward to support Southport's strikers with the result that after 66 minutes they forced the equaliser which took them to the twin towers.
It was a goal that Slough will be arguing about all the way home to Berkshire. Steve Morris, who had scored the only goal of the first leg, cut in from the right flank and let fly. His shot was deflected to Kevin Formby, who scrambled the ball into the net past a team-mate, Brian Ross, standing almost on the goal-line. Slough appealed in vain for an offside verdict and their goalkeeper, Paul Wilkerson, was booked while their manager, the former Arsenal player Brian McDermott, was dismissed from the dug- out.
The goal may have been contentious, but it was deserved, and Southport's player-manager, the 41-year-old Paul Futcher, can now look forward to a grand Wembley day out on 17 May.
Goals: Bailey (30) 0-1; Formby (66) 1-1.
Southport (3-5-2): Stewart; Horner, Futcher, Ryan; Thompson, Farley, Butler, Gamble, Formby; Ross, Morris. Substitutes not used: Bolland, Kielty, Bagnall (gk).
Slough Town (4-4-2): Wilkerson; Hercules, McGinnis (West, 73), Angus, Stowell; Smart, Bailey, Brazil, Bolt; Browne, Abbott (Owusu, 78). Substitutes not used: Smith.
Referee: B Coddington (Sheffield).
Bookings: Slough: Stowell, Wilkerson, Browne.
Man of the match: Butler. Attendance: 4,895.